This Year’s Curriculum

I know some places have already begun the 21/22 school year but here in Oregon most kids don’t typically get started until after Labor Day, so that will be my plan as well. Of course my approach to school is to never really stop. Throughout the Summer Nathan has continued to do math regularly and has also begun typing practice because he wants to learn to code as well. Nathan is a voracious reader so I don’t assign him books. He has a book journal that he writes the title of ever completed book in and his numbers are always high so I see no need to give him specific reading directions at this point. Though I am always hunting for new books for him because he goes through them so quickly. As we begin the new school year I’ll have books picked out for us to read aloud together where we’ll take turns reading, so that he continues to build his reading aloud skills. Reading aloud well is actually harding than silent reading, and something that many people never really develop. As I discovered in my first college class.

Going into this new school year I’ve switched up a few items we were using, and have decided what areas I feel we need to focus on as Nathan’s core subjects vs. what we’ll do on more of a loop “schedule” or as the fancy takes us. Because he reads so well this will not be an actual subject he has to do. We will be doing math, handwriting and typing, spelling, some language arts/writing. Nathan will be doing mostly 3rd grade level work, but he is only “suppose” to be in the second grade, so there are some thing like writing where I don’t expect him to be at a third grade level. He also likes to creative write his own stories and I don’t want to put a damper on that at this time by forcing too much writing. There will be time for that.

For math Nathan began using the first level of Beast Academy at the beginning of the summer. He is using both the online and physical versions of the curriculum. He really loves it so far. He’s very much a fan of earning stars and rewards through the gamification of things and the online version does this. It also has very good videos that explain new concepts, as well as the comic book style guide books of the beasts doing various math concepts. The approach to math in this program is a lot different than what I learned. There is a lot more logic involved and puzzle/problem solving. I can see the benefit of being able to think of numbers in this way though, so I don’t mind the times where I also have to learn what Nathan is doing in a lesson. I enjoy the opportunity to stretch and train my own brain in new ways. It’s not a good fit for every kid, but we’re liking it a lot, so it’s definitely one to look into further if you’re needing something different in the math arena.

For handwriting Nathan will continue with Handwriting Without Tears, and when he finishes this workbook we’ll probably just do copywork.

For spelling I decided to go with Sequential Spelling. I didn’t want to use a curriculum with spelling included because I am a bit opinionated when it comes to learning to spell. It’s something I actually really enjoy, but I did’t like how it’s presented in most curriculums I looked at, so I decided to separate LA from spelling, and found this curriculum that approaches spelling more purposefully in my opinion. It focuses on word families as well as words within bigger words, and the common prefixes, and suffixes added to these words. This allows the brain to actually train in spelling multiple words together rather than just trying to remember how to spell a word on its own. Lol I don’t know if that makes sense or not. It’s a bit hard to explain. If you want a separate spelling program though I would suggest looking into this one as a possible option. We haven’t actually used it yet though, so I can’t give a review, but I plan to make it fit our needs even if I end up needing to tweak it, but I don’t really foresee that needing to happen.

For Language Arts we’ll just be using a simple workbook. I’ve looked through so many and found them all to be about the same. Like I said I didn’t want one that included spelling so that ruled out quite a few. I decided to just go with an inexpensive workbook. Harcourt fit the bill, and looking through it I think it will be just fine. I also like to add fun things like Mad Libs or Apple to Apples Jr. to keep it a bit more interesting. We have the Usborne Grammar and Punctuation book and Nitty Gritty Grammar that we can use for reference when needed. I also thrifted a newer children’s dictionary, and bought a used children’s thesaurus this year to add to our bookshelves.

This year writing will be a lot more go with the flow or inspired in the moment. I did purchase our first Dart from the Brave Writer’s program that I plan to try out. It’s for the book Charolette’s Web, which is one I’ve been waiting for the right time to read with Nathan. I also hope to include a bit more poetry this year, but we’ll see if we get around to actually writing any of our own. I see it happening, but am not holding myself to it. Nathan is always full of new book ideas, (mostly Minecraft related, but to each his own) and I want to encourage this in him, so I won’t be pushing a ton of writing for now.

You might notice in the picture the notebook that I wrote “Book of Centuries” on. This is basically a book that you make entries in when you learn about something that happened at a particular time in history. These can get very detailed and impressive, but this will be our first one so we’ll just make it super simple. When we read about a historic event, a new person, a new scientific discovery et cetera we will enter it in its proper place on the time line. I think it’s a great idea for beginning to line up what happened when rather than trying to memorize specific dates. I’m actually looking forward to doing this as well. God knows I have no idea where a lot of things fall on the history timeline. You might notice the Story of the World book in the picture as well. I intend to continue using this periodically as time allows. I do enjoy it, and we’ll just make an entry in the Centuries book after reading something new.

I don’t stress about science because we’re all naturally interested in various fields of science, and we learn a lot just as topics come at us in life. Sometimes we’re a bit more purposeful, but other times science just happens. We have a ton of amazing science books in our house. ( I just purchased some new ones which I hope to get around to sharing). We also stop and google when we have a question, which will often lead us down a fascinating rabbit trail of discovery. Nathan’s grandma also sends him and Simon science subscription boxes which are a fun way to add science in. Nathan’s is MelScience Kids, and Simon gets Little Passports.

There is more we’ll be doing, but that’s the main stuff right there. We’re a homeschooling family where both mom and dad love to learn new things too, so learning is a big part of day to day life. We’ll probably do some foreign language stuff like Spanish and ASL because I’m interested in these things and I include the boys in what I do. Nathan will likely do more computer learning with daddy, and I do hope to get him in piano lessons at some point, but with the pandemic it hasn’t happened yet.

So this is what our homeschool year will look like as we start out. It’s bound to change a little. Our homeschool is very fluid. I also will not do all of these things every day. The core will normally happen every day, but some days are just hard and school needs to be on the lighter side. Some days we get an opportunity to do something fun and different, so we set school aside for the day and do that. Some days we’ll play more games or watch a documentary. Some days we may decide we need cookies, and so to the kitchen we’ll go. It’s all learning.

You’ve Always Been Their Teacher

The comment I probably see most often when it comes to homeschooling, (besides “socialization”) is parents feeling like they aren’t qualified to teach their kids. It seems as if some parents are worried that they themselves won’t have the skill needed to teach their children things. I think I understand where these thoughts are coming from. I mean people go to school for many years to study how to teach kids, but that isn’t the whole story. Teachers are trained in how to teach a CLASSROOM of kids. Yes, teachers have hopefully been taught the different learning styles, and given plenty of hands on experience in implementing different methods, but the reality of teaching a classroom of children is very different than teaching your own children in your home. If a teacher has learned about various learning styles, that doesn’t mean they are able to bring that experience to the classroom. Teachers are required to maintain order and teach to the learning styles that best accomplish that order. They are not free to teach to the need of every child, or give children the individual attention so many kids actually need to learn well.

Now step into the homeschool “classroom” and notice that it is not a classroom at all. There is no class. Just your own children. Parents homeschooling their children do not need the classroom training that teachers go to school for. Even parents with multiple children, in various learning levels do not need special training. All it takes is some trial and error to figure out what works best for you family, and how your kids best learn. And you don’t have to figure these things out right away either. This is your family, and you can try things out and change things up as much as you need until you find what works.

It is my strong opinion though that the biggest reason you don’t need a certification to be your child’s teacher is because the moment that child was given to you, you became their teacher. A parent is the first teacher a child will ever have, and that is the way God designed it. How many things have parents taught their children by the time they turn four!? SO many things! To walk and to talk. To use a spoon, a toilet, and a toothbrush. We teach our kids to catch a ball, to ride their bikes, or to jump rope. That is only to name a few physical skills that the average child is taught by their parents, but what about the more complicated things like social etiquette or moral virtues. Society can easily testify to how hard it is to teach morals. It seems some people never learn them, but involved and caring parents are doing their best to teach their children to be good people. And keep in mind that being good does not come natural to any of us. It is an up hill climb for every person. Granted some people are better at climbing that hill than others, but we all climb it. Good parents teach their children how to climb that hill. As parents continue to climb the hill themselves, they teach their kids what they know, and help them along their own journey. This is the essence of teaching; example and support. It is the same in all forms of teaching.

What is teaching reading or arithmetic compared to instilling virtues in our children? A walk in the park comparatively. There is no box curriculum that can really help you raise your children to be good people. Sure there are books and some “guides”, but it’s the continual lesson called “life” where a child learns all the most important things. Keep all this in mind if you are one of these parents questioning your own ability to teach your children academic subjects.

We can also be thankful that when it comes to homeschooling there are so many resources out there to help you teach your child anything. You are not on your own. You don’t have to feel like you know how to teach a child to read or the steps to carrying out a new math concept. There is help for everything. Making the decision to homeschool does not mean that you are now on your own, thrown into the homeschool pool to figure out how to swim. There are communities for support and help, and most curriculums explain how to teach a subject. Not to mention we live in a world with the internet! We didn’t have the amazing tool of the internet when I was a homeschooling kid, and I am still so thankful that I now have it as a homeschooling mom. It is an endless resource for learning just about anything!

Ultimately the most important thing that you as your child’s teacher must bring to the table is a desire within yourself to also learn. You will not know how to do everything your child will need to learn, but it isn’t hard to find out how. My children often ask me questions I don’t know the answers to, but I love when this happens because then we get to learn together. One of the best bits about homeschooling is how much I get to learn right along with my kids. I think this ‘togetherness’ in learning actually helps our children learn all the better, and instills in them the oh so important lesson that life is meant for learning; that even adults should be continuing to learn. That is my main goal in homeschooling my kids; that they will leave my home still loving to learn and always wanting to. If that happens, and I am confident it will, then I will have been a great teacher.